The Sony 28mm F/2 FE Lens Review by Steve Huff

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The Sony 28mm F/2 FE Lens Review

By Steve Huff – Pre-order this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE!

Wow. If I were to tell you that I have a lens here that gives some of the best quality I have seen in any 28mm lens, yet it comes in at around $450, would you believe me? I have been shooting with the small compact Sony 28mm f/2 lens and WOW, this guy is pretty incredible for the size, the cost and the lightweight build. In other words, the image quality is WOW!!! But! It is not perfect and has flaws, but these flaws are to me, nothing to worry about.

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When I saw that Sony was going to release a wide-angle f/2 prime, and it did not have the Zeiss or G moniker attached to it, I assumed it would be an average lens. Cheap build, large size and soft performance wide open. Little did I know that this lens would deliver some of the sharpest results I have seen in any 28mm lens. While not perfect, as in an “optical masterpiece” the cons are few and the pros are many. So take a look at some images I was able to get with the lens as well as my thoughts on this new semi-wide angle from Sony. :)

The Mighty 28mm f/2

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This little lens is just that. Small. While not as tiny as a Leica lens, this guy is basically a tad longer than the 35 f/2.8 Zeiss, which is tiny. The 28 is longer but not wider and it ships with a plastic petal type lens hood. The review unit was sent to me without a retail box but seeing that the lens ships in May (and my review unit was sent to me in March) they may not have had them made up yet.

Upon taking it out of the box I was surprised at the small size and light weight. BUT, I liked it as I love small lenses. Still, I “assumed” it would be soft at f/2, which is where I would want to shoot it.

I attached it to my A7II, took a few test snaps in my backyard and when I came in to look at the JPEGS I was WOWED! The sharpness, pop, detail, contrast, color and overall vibe was superb. For black and white the contrast is just right out of the camera, giving your photos some real pop.

Brandon – 28 f/2 – Sony A7II – B&W JPEG

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Debby – Color is great as well, and this was on a bright harsh day out in the desert. 

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I am not usually a 28mm guy but I have been tempted to order the Leica 28 Elmarit for my M but at $2200 I did not feel I would use it enough to warrant a purchase. With this new Sony 28mm, at $450 it is a NO BRAINER. I can shoot with the 28 when I like and will never feel guilty about breaking the bank for the lens. In fact, the 28mm f/2 shows some of the same character as my Leica 35 Summicron. Again, all for $450. Sony may have been wanting to make a statement with this one, showing us that they can produce a small fast prime, on the cheap, that delivers pro quality.

In fact, I have been shooting it quite a bit and I have not noticed any major issues. NO CA issues, NO speed issues (the AF is fast with this lens on my A7II and A7S) and no busy bokeh, no off color…this is a solid lens in ALMOST all aspects.

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So what IS wrong with the lens?

When I review lenses I just get out there and shoot them. I do not go set up a studio scene to test for detail (others do that), I do not shoot resolution charts (others do that) and I do not talk all scientific using big words that confuse many readers (others do that as well). What I prefer to do is USE the lens! When the lens was made it was built for one purpose…to mount on your camera and make memories. So I take photos with the lens and look at the quality, color, distortion, sharpness, pop, contrast and bokeh. I can instantly tell from the get go if a lens is a MUST OWN or NEVER OWN type of lenses.

Today there are so many lenses out there to choose from. Expensive, cheap, off brands…lots of jewels and lots of garbage. With a 28mm focal length and a speed of f/2, we usually have some kind of issues whether it is vignetting, soft corners, or distortion. So what is wrong with the Sony 28?

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It has some distortion. If you shoot JPEG in your Sony A7 series camera you will never see it, as the camera corrects for this automatically, and I admit, sometimes the JPEGS out of the A7II look better than my processed RAW files so shooting JPEG for me is not an issue. But since the lens is not yet shipping, there is no lens profile in Lightroom or ACR for this lens, so when shooting RAW, right now, you will see distortion. Much like the powerhouse Sony RX1 and RX1r, the lens will show some barrel distortion and it needs correction. I used the profile for the Sony 28-70 and it took care of it pretty good  – but even so, if you shoot RAW, the lens will need a lens profile to fix the distortion.

Below is a sample shot – One from RAW without any lens correction, one out of camera JPEG with the distortion fixed. This way you can see what to expect if you shoot raw and do not use correction. Click them for larger.

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As you can see, there is distortion but as I said, even the now legendary RX1 has this issue if you shoot RAW. MANY cameras do this today, have in camera lens profiles that fix the issues automatically. With lenses being made smaller, compromises have to be made and I will take in camera  profile correction any day over a lens that would be 4X the size. This is one reason why Leica lenses are so expensive. They are all optically superior lenses that will not distort and do not need correction. They are already corrected..and small. But the drawback is that they are UBER EXPENSIVE. The 28 f/2 from Leica is $4300. The Sony? $450 or almost 10X less expensive. So do not expect optical perfection, instead, expect a lens that will give you fantastic out of camera quality that is sharp, colorful, higher contrast and has load of pop.

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How could this lens be so good for under $450?

It just is. Sony has created a fantastic lens here. It is fast with AF, locked on quickly every time. It is light and compact and it provides smashing color, contrast and pop. Some may think it has too much contrast so you may want to lower the contrast in your favorite editor.

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So I am excited about this lens. After shooting it for 2 weeks I do not want to be without it as it has become glued to my A7II. The 35 1.4 Zeiss is stuck on my A7s. Both lenses are fantastic that propel the A7 system into the stratosphere in my opinion.

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Sony is maturing their FE line and it is looking fantastic. All kinds of lenses, all kinds of choices, the new bodies with more to come. They are on a non stop roll and if they keep it up, this will be the system to beat. Many predicted Sony’s doom, many said they can’t compete with Fuji or Leica.

WRONG!

Not only are they competing with Fuji and Leica, they are surpassing them quickly. The quality from a camera like the A7II and these new Sony FE lenses is nothing short of astonishing. If the A7II and 28 f/2 came out 10 years ago, we would be saying “THIS IS COMPACT MEDIUM FORMAT” and it would have skyrocketed to the top. But of course this new tech in sensors and bodies did not exist then, but I predict Sony has another Ace up their sleeve as they are always thinking forward and to the future which is the way to do it. I know many photo geeks who are thrilled to death with their Sony A7s and A7II cameras whether they use Leica glass, Sony glass or Zeiss glass.

My son Brandon, now almost 19 (where has the time gone)? Shot at f/2 with the 28 on the A7II – he never likes to make a serious face these days :) 

Click image to see the 100% crop.

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Another with a 100% crop embedded – click it

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At night in my bedroom. As I prepare for bed my dog took it upon herself to lay on my pillows. Used the light from the lamp on the nightstand. ISO 800 at f/2. Focus was quick and accurate. 

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Pros and Cons of the Sony 28 f/2 Lens

Pros

  1. Small and Light
  2. Priced RIGHT at $450
  3. Extremely sharp lens, even at f/2
  4. Higher contrast, deep color, rich POP
  5. Close focus ability of 0.96 foot.
  6. Smooth creamy Bokeh
  7. Fast AF, Accurate AF
  8. Seems like a perfect size for the A7 series

Cons

  1. Has distortion with RAW files  – needs a profile. JPEGS are fixed in camera
  2. Build quality is that of a $450 lens. Not tank like in any way.

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My Final Word on the Sony 28mm f/2 Lens

Sony has come a long way since the NEX-3 and 5 from when they started on this mirrorless path. Little did we know that a few years after these tiny cameras Sony would release a full frame system that no one else has yet to compete with. Not Fuji, not Leica, not Nikon, not Canon, not Ricoh, not Pentax, not Olympus..NO ONE. So for now, here in 2015, Sony is gaining serious steam. I see it in comments, in sales and in clicks. Sony is leading the pack in the enthusiast market.

Many used to complain that Sony did not have enough lenses for the FE system yet here we are a year and half from the start of this brand new system and we have tons of lenses to choose from. Many GREAT, some GOOD and some average. But the choices are there. We now have this 28mm, which has add ons for wider views and even fisheye effects. We have the 16-35 Zeiss and we have the 24-70 Zeiss and the 28-70 more affordable option. We have the 35 2.8, the 35 1.4 and the Zeiss Loxia 35 and 50 f/2. We have the 55 1.8, the  90 Macro (coming) and the supremos and even pro 70-200. There are more and more to be announced.

As for this 28mm, it is to me, a no brainer at $450. You will not find a better new production 28mm for full frame for this price, period. While not perfect due to the distortion that is present without correction or using a lens profile, it is easily overcome. Shoot JPEG and they are perfect out of the camera. Shoot RAW and you will need to apply the camera lens profile to fix the distortion, but when it is fixed the images will be gorgeous.

I liked shooting this lens JPEG as the color and pop right from camera was fantastic. I also shot RAW, and those were great as well. For me, this 28mm is a must own, and my pre-order is in. It will ship in May and is priced at $450.

Where to Buy the 28?

You can pre-order it at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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104 thoughts on “The Sony 28mm F/2 FE Lens Review by Steve Huff”

  1. Οne really quick but important question Steve.

    Does it performs as good as zeiss 35 2.8 at SUNSETS? i care only for sunsets. or it is too dark?

  2. I have enjoyed reading your blogs Steve, about the Sony A7 family. I have a Sony A7 but alas I can never get a decent photo with it. It doesn’t produce even focus across the frame. I have tried every possible change in the settings, and a prime lens instead of the kit lens. In your opinion, is it possible that the camera is simply faulty? I’d be grateful for your opinion. The results you got here with the 28mm lens are amazing. I have the exact same lens and can get nothing in sharp, even focus, only small parts in focus with good detail, and other objects on the same focal plane look as though the ISO for that part was cranked right up. Unclear, very cheap and digital looking. Any ideas? I’d be grateful for your views.

    1. I never ever have focus issues with the A7RII, A7II, A7s, or A7SII. The older A7 series (the 1st ones) had slower focus and inconsistent focus. Even so, was never a challenge to get a shot in focus as 98% of the time it worked well. No matter what camera I use, no matter what brand, I always ONLY use center point focus. I’ve done focus/recompose for 25 years. I would set the focus to center point only. You should not have even one issue doing it like this. Also, shoot RAW and process to taste.

  3. Hi Steve, as this lens has no OSS, would you recommend to pair it with A7S for street photography or without a tripod, Thank you.

  4. Hi Steve , thanks for the review. I have to pick this 28mm f2 at $450 or the 35mm f2.8 at $600, what would you recommend?

    I generally shoot street photography with people, plus some portrait. I do own the 85mm f1.8.

    Thanks in advance

  5. Thank you for the review. My question is about variable ND filter, what is the best to use with this lens? It looks like there isn’t many of them with 49mm diameter. And is there a severe vignetting if a bigger diameter is used via the step up ring? Thank you!

  6. Hi Steve,
    I bought finally A7II.
    I’m using my contax biogon 28 with Fotodiox adapter.
    Nice, but there’s smearing unfortunatelly.
    I’m thinking to buy another 28, the Sony is a deal.
    But you know, Leica is always something that one wish to own. I checked used lenses here and I found a Leica R Elmarit 28(2.8) at 500 US $. Do you think that it could perform better than the Sony 28 (not a question of pixel…) and don’t have the smearing problem (I’ve read that the R work better than M).
    Thank you very much!!

      1. Hi Steve – Would you happen to know if the 28mm FE is supported on a Nex 7? meaning do camera-lens correction work(distortion/chro.aberr)? This is important to me because I mostly shoot jpg and also thinking on preview/composition and video. Thanx

  7. Hi, Steve
    I have one suggestion for those crazy comparisons :-)

    Sony a6000 within 28 2.0 lens versus
    Sony a7 II within 50 1.8 lens

    btw your site “rulez” :-)

  8. I plan on getting the new A7rII. I’ll only be able to start with one lens, mainly for cityscape, landscape and general purpose. What would you go for out of the 35mm f2.8, 28 mm f2 or 25 mm f2? I like the Zeiss pop and a sharp lens, but the 35 mm f1.4 is just too big.Thanks.

      1. Isn’t the 25mm focal length a little wide for a walk around?
        Steve, how much of a space saving is the batis 25mm over the distagon 35mm f1.4? Thanks.

          1. I think ClearImage is very handy for video, but there would be quite a loss of DOF. I’m after quality here!

          2. Use APS-C option then to make it 37.5mm, this way you’ll have both wide and almost 35mm. Or, use 35mm, it’s cheaper and according to some people even sharper across the frame than 55 1.8 :) I thought you’re after versatility for general purpose :)

          3. I meant 35mm 2.8. But You’re slightly loosing aperture then and DOF. But it’s cheap though, halfaprice of Batis

          4. I’ll re-phrase my problem. I want to build a system with multiple lenses around the a7rii, but can only realistically afford to start with one lens. I’m mostly into landscapes and walk around, but do occasional people and nature. I feel 35 mm f2.8 is a little slow, the 35mm f1.4 is too big.

            Option 1: Is there any chance of a 35 mm f2 AF lens coming soon?

            Option 2: Could I get the 55 mm f1.8 and use auto pano to merge two shots for landscapes and architecture? Are there going to major downsides in terms of quality? Possibly this focal length would eventually become redundant as my kit expands.

            Option 3: Get the 28 mm f2 or 25 mm f2 and live with a bit of curvature in people shots.

  9. In general it seems that all the FE lenses are (very) good performers, but what about the 24-70? It keeps getting mixed reviews, which is sad given its importance as a substitute for the kit lens.

    What do you have to say about it? Is it the only “black sheep” among the FE lineup? Can we expect an in depth review from you?

    Thanks.

    1. The FE 24-70/4 is far better than people give it credit for. I find it the best standard zoom I’ve used.

      It just depends on your style of shooting. This lens is crazy sharp in the center (as good as a prime), but you can’t expect prime lens performance near the edges. In return, you get the excellent Zeiss colors and pop, and even some decent bokeh. I think if you’re shooting people, it is a fantastic lens. If you’re shooting landscapes, the 35/2.8 might be the better option.

  10. Steve, would you buy this lens or the Leica 28mm F2.8 ASPH? The only other lens I have is the Voightlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton.

    Budget is not an issue. If the Sony, then what would you spend the extra cash on?

  11. What do you think is the best option for landscape photography? The FE 28 or the FE 16-35? The quality of the adapters probably plays a role in the decision. Have you tested or seen results on the wide angle adapter?

  12. I just got one and have to agree with Steve on all points. Lightroom 6.0.1 now has the lens correction for the 28mm F2 and it works great. Easily worth the money. The lens construction is solid and while perhaps not built to the same measure as my Nikkor 28mm F2.8 AIS, it is more than sufficient and a good deal lighter.

  13. Steve, I just got this lens. I have to ask you, does your copy make a physical ‘clank’ when focusing? My copy makes a clank and you can almost hear it. I’m almost thinking an element is loose or something. When I shake the lens i can hear something moving inside and a dull clank sound. I’m not as experienced so I’m not sure if this is normal or not. If you or anyone else could advise, I would be very grateful. Thanks.

    1. My lens also makes a low dull clanking sound when shaken gently. Some sigma’s also have this by design. I don’t know if my FE 28 2 is like that or defective.

  14. Steve, I just got this lens. I have to ask you, does your copy make a physical ‘clank’ when focusing? My copy makes a clank and you can almost hear it. I’m almost thinking an element is loose or something. When I shake the lens i can hear something moving inside and a dull clank sound. I’m not as experienced so I’m not sure if this is normal or not. If you or anyone else could advise, I would be very grateful. Thanks.

  15. So, could please anyone answer – will it fit on A6000 ? Or everyone became FF guy within half a year ;)
    Thanks in advance

          1. I’m looking forward to it. I’d really like to know what the sharpest prime lenses are for the A6000 – one manual focus (including adapted) and one autofocus. Why buy a 24 MPx camera if the lenses only transmit 15 MPix? Thanks Steve!

  16. Really nice!! I’ve been shooting with a Fuji X-T1 for the last year and decided to order the A7II because of you Steve. I purchased the Zeiss 50/2 and mounted it on the Fuji with very good results but I have to really make the Fuji work to get the depth you see here. I’ll be ordering this lens once I sell my Fuji Gear. Thanks for the great reviews.

  17. nice review Steve. You are saying that the 28/2 was permanently on the A7II and the 35/1.4 stays on the A7S. Is there any particular reason for this specific combination? (personally, I would be expecting you to put the 35 on the A7II, but thats just my opinion)

    1. Totally different – with the 16-35 you get sharp crisp photos due to f/4..with the 28 you have f/2 so you can use it in lower light, lower ISO or add some shallow DOF. It also has a different smoother rendering that some would call more “classic” but to me it has a smooth classic look while being sharp as a tac. It’s also 1/3 the size :)

  18. I got one of these last week for the A7r and it’s BARKING MAD SHARP! So far, out of all the lenses I’ve been adapting (Pentax FA Limited 31/42/77) and have in E-mount (55/1.8 and 70-200/4) this is my new favorite!

    28mm is a great focal length for street and landscape both.

    Landscape . . .

    https:[email protected]/16885027887/in/photostream/lightbox/

    Missed focus on this one, but shows the focal length use for street . . .

    https:[email protected]/16871688847/in/photostream/lightbox/

    Highly recommend this lens. That FE 35/1.4 is a bit heavy and expensive for me right now, but this is a great little alternative.

    I’m using a Minolta 28mm f/2.8 lens profile in LR for it at the moment for RAW, but no doubt Adobe will be issuing an update soon.

    Nice one Steve!

    1. I have only shot a few pictures with the 28 f2 on the A7M2 and haven’t explored all apertures, but it seems pretty sharp even at the edges (to the limits of the depth of field. Very happy with color, speed and bokeh.

  19. I know that Steve may/will update the review later as available, but does anyone else here have experience with the 21mm ultrawide adapter? The very few reviews I’ve seen in English have not been favorable.

    For my purposes, a 28mm isn’t wide enough to justify a purchase by itself (too close to 35), great price-to-value ratio or not. However, if the ultrawide adapter is done right, then I’d buy this combo in a heartbeat. I’d primarily use it as a native FE 21 f/2.8, with the option to go to 28 f/2.

    Any thoughts on this approach? Should I just suck it up and get a Voigt Ultron 21?

    1. Sorry, what I actually meant was that I use a xume adapter on my lenses so that I can magnetically pop on filters. Is it possible for the 28mm lens with an fume adapter screwed on to connect with the wide angle adapter without removing the xume adapter in-between? I would hate to have to remove the xume adapter everytime I needed to pop on the wide angle adapter.

  20. Nice review Steve. This seems a nice lens, but I was almost more enthusiastic when seeing you more or less followed my route to Joshua Tree Park two months ago, past that insane Windmill park and all. That deathskull rock area is an insanely fun playgound! ;)

  21. Last week we took a quick trip to vegas and I decided to take the 28 and the 55 only. Left the 35 and 24-70 behind. Did not regret it. Also took the 21 mm and fisheye adapters but didn’t use them much. Tried to keep it as light as possible on the street. Overall I am happy with the lens performance on the A7R.

  22. @Donald I have the 55 and now the 28 and LOVE IT! The fact that it’s a little faster, only a little longer (physically) and half the price of the 35mm it’s a much better choice over the 35mm. It is everything Steve has said. I find it the perfect match for the 55mm. Now for a compact(ish) 100mm SONY. :-)

    @Steve…once again great review. I agree with you completely! I recieved this lens only an hour or so after it was released here in Sydney and it has blown me away in regards to performance. Absolute MUST OWN guys!!! Hasn’t been removed from my a7ii in 2 weeks now….

    Cheers…..Tim

  23. Remember that 35mm 1.4 review you said you would have out within 2 week several months ago? How did that not get out before this? When is that coming?

    1. How did 4 weeks turn into SEVERAL MONTHS? Hmmm. I am still using it and testing it. Will write the full review when I am done :) But the hands on I did a month ago (not several months ago) said plenty about it. My opinion is the same. Best 35 1.4 I have ever shot with in regards to IQ.

  24. I tried this lens out for a couple of weeks. It’s okay, but nothing special in my opinion. However I’m used to Leica and Zeiss glass. I prefer the photos from the Sony Zeiss 35/2.8 FE. It’s good value for the price you can get it for now, but I’d prefer something with better rendering and/or sharper round the edges. The summilux 28 was fantastic, except for smearing round the edges. Elmarit 28 is a bit too clean/clinical. So, for me the search for the best 28mm continues.

    1. Im used to Leica and Zeiss glass and this one is close, up there with $2k lenses for color, sharpness and pop. Add in the close focus and the fantastic light weight and it is a $450 lens worth $600. It’s a deal. if you send years “searching for the best 28” you will miss years of photos. No other 28 f/2 will do any better in any real world photos, photos that are printed and viewed on a wall. In fact the 28 Cron may do worse, and it is $4500.

      1. Well I just wasn’t that impressed with something about the look on the A7S, but I was alternating with the awesome Leica Summicron 50 APO.

        I have a Zeiss Distagon 28 f2 with Nikon adapter arriving soon. I’m going to compare that with the Biogon 28 f2.8 to see if the Distagon is worth the extra size/weight.

  25. The lens has been available in Hong Kong for awhile. The street price is $400. At this price, as Steve said, its a no brainer. I got one in late March and took it to Penang (Malaysia) for a short Easter getaway. Its everything that Steve has described. The corner at f/2 is a bit soft, but becomes very good by f/4. Actually the best aperture for this lens is at f/4 and f/5.6. I compare this lens with a Nikkor 28/2.8 AI lens and its better than the Nikkor. In fact, during my trip in Penang, I enjoyed this lens so much that the 35 cron on a M9 remained in the camera bag most of the time. The only complain I have on this lens is the very filmsy lens shade. Its plastic and is quite loose when attached even when its new.

  26. The lens looks interesting to me as a wide angle on the A7, BUT I wonder how it works as a normal lens on the A6000, mostly in terms of distortion (cropped) and sharpness (smaller pixels).

    1. ^^^ i wanted to reply to 3rd comment above, not sure why it appear here,

      I mean, when you got your 21mm converter please compare it to voigtlander 21mm voigtlander

  27. So this is a little off from topic, but I’m just wondering where you got that leather case for your camera? I’ve been looking for something like it.

    1. It`s worth every cent and a must have for A7.. shooters. I would not call it phenomenal, though. As Steve shows, it has some flaws. The A7r with the 28mm and 55mm is my travel combo. In aps-c mode the 28 and 55 turn into useful 42mm and 83mm equivalent focal lengths and create a high IQ and compact package versatile enough for my needs.

      1. Is there an easy way to set up a function button to switch from APS-C and back to full frame. I like the idea of changing the effective focal length but it is too time consuming to go to the menu. Also, is clear zoom or APS-C a better option for zoom?

  28. How would you compare the image quality and sharpness to the 35mm f2.8? For the person who just wants something wider than the 55 1.8, is this as good a choice as the 35? Assuming that the price isn’t a HUGE difference.

    1. The 28/2 is a better companion to the 55/1.8. The 35/2.8 is more of an ultra-compact walk around lens, the focal length is perhaps too close to the 55.

      1. Just to be clear, the reason I said there wasn’t a huge price difference is that the 35 used is the same price as the 28 new (we can’t get it used yet). Given that the used can still be in excellent condition, the question becomes, is at the same price which is better?

  29. Please Steve, take a look at distortion in video mode.
    Is it auto-corrected ?
    This Focal Length is my favorite for flycam usage, and this tiny lens completes the low profile-low cost- low weight videographer

  30. Any chance you’ll be reviewing the 21mm converter lens? Interested in this combo for when I go to Greece in a couple months. I was looking at the 16-35mm but 16mm is too wide for me and I rarely shot at that focal length when I was with Canon.

    This combo seems perfect for traveling. Small 28mm for most of my shots and 21mm for times I want to go wider.

      1. Cool thanks! BTW, your reviews are some of the best because it’s personal. I for one, could care less about charts and would rather see what the lens can actually produce in real life situations. Thanks again!

    1. You can import the profile from the latest version of Adobe’s DNG converter if you use Lightroom or Camera Raw.

      I like the lens (been shooting my copy for a few days now), but it’s a bit soft in the corners, not least due to the amount of software correction needed. I also quickly discovered that it produces the ‘bulls eye’ colour shifts like the 35/2.8 with the A7R. Generally though, it’s a good lens and solid value if a little bit prosaic compared with the FE Zeiss primes. Nice colour and contrast, very sharp in the centre of the frame, well controlled CA, nice and light, fast AF, but major vignetting and more distortion than I’d anticipated.

  31. Hey,

    can you share some of your NEVER OWN type of lens when you have a chance? As much as I appreciate reading about what I should buy if I am after so or so, reading about flawed hardware could also be interesting. You get enough first hand experience to be trusted.

    And, I understand that it would not be as fun to do on your end.

    Just a thought,
    Wisc.

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